By Kim Palacios

It’s easy to find a writer with a strong portfolio.  It’s harder to find the right writer for your business.  Technical skill is not enough.  The best writer for your brand must know enough about your industry to write credibly, must be sensitive to tone, and must understand competitive dynamics well enough to address the unspoken needs of your audience.   Here are a few hiring tips:

Immediately rule out bidders who fail to impress you.  The logic behind this one is simple: a writer who fails to make a great first impression on you may fail to make a great first impression on your audience.  A bid from a writer is thematically similar to a blog posting: both intend to establish credibility and to sell services.  A writer who doesn’t seem credible to you and can’t convincingly sell her services will not be able to convincingly promote yours.

Hire someone with business savvy.  Many writers in the current market did not get their chops in business (in particular, the market is flooded with PR writers and journalists).  Though the tone of most blogs should not be overly-aggressive, or “sales-y,” so also should it not lack persuasion and subtle promotion of your product or service.  A great professional blogger will understand the competitive dynamics of your business and will infuse elements that speak to your audience and help your blog stand out.

Hire someone who can emulate your brand’s voice. Is your company youthful and fun?  Does it emphasize tenure and expertise?  Is it progressive or traditional?  Is it high-end or budget?   Whatever your brand identity, look for evidence that your writer either specializes in, or is flexible to capturing, your brand’s unique voice or tone.  If you are choosing among finalists, be willing to pay each finalist for one article on your topic of choice as a test.  This is a great way to determine which candidates are able to speak in your company’s voice.

Hire a natural customer of your product.  It is less important that you choose somebody who has written about the topic before as it is that you choose somebody who identifies with your audience.  For example, don’t hire a 25-year-old man to blog about your Botox clinic—hire a 45-year old woman whose own personal network may be struggling with issues of aging.  Not only will personal interest allow a writer to speak more convincingly about your product—such a writer may be able to enhance your reach through her own personal audience.

Hire a native English speaker who lives in the U.S. (or a native speaker of the language who lives in the country in which you do business).  Many low-cost outfits outsource their work to writers in countries where English is spoken, but not as a primary language.  Even the most fluent ESL-speakers will lack a certain control of the language unless they have lived for a long time in the U.S.  While technical accuracy and grammatical correctness can be achieved by foreigners, it is nearly impossible to develop the ability to use humor, add in idioms, make puns, flex wit, or infuse other clever language that makes writing come alive.  When considering non-native speakers, look hard for evidence that they can produce sharp, nuanced writing.


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